Choi Yong-kun was previously head of state as the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly. Proclaimed “eternal President” after his death. Supreme Leader of North Korea, from its คิม อิล ซุง in 1948 until his death in 1994.
Under his leadership, North Korea became a communist state with a publicly owned and planned economy. It had close political and economic relations with the Soviet Union. At the 6th WPK Congress in 1980, his oldest son Kim Jong-il was elected as a Presidium member and chosen as his heir apparent to the supreme leadership. Controversy surrounds Kim’s life before the founding of North Korea, with some labeling him an impostor.
Several sources indicate that the name “Kim Il-sung” had previously been used by a prominent early leader of the Korean resistance, Kim Kyung-cheon. The Soviet officer Grigory Mekler, who worked with Kim during the Soviet occupation, said that Kim assumed this name from a former commander who had died. However, historian Andrei Lankov has argued that this is unlikely to be true. Historian Bruce Cumings pointed out that Japanese officers from the Kwantung Army have attested to his fame as a resistance figure. Historians generally accept the view that, while Kim’s exploits were exaggerated by the personality cult which was built around him, he was a significant guerrilla leader. It was Pyon Tae U and other public-minded people in Wujiazi and such young communists as Choe Il Chon who proposed to change my name into Kim Il Sung.
Thus I was called by three names, Song Ju, Han Byol and Il Sung. Kim’s family is said to have originated from Jeonju, North Jeolla Province. His great-grandfather, Kim Ung-u, settled in Mangyong-dae in 1860. According to Kim, his family was not very poor, but was always a step away from poverty.
Another view seems to be that his family settled in Manchuria, as many Koreans had at the time to escape famine. Nonetheless, Kim’s parents, especially Kim’s mother Kang Ban Suk, played a role in the anti-Japanese struggle that was sweeping the peninsula. Their exact involvement—whether their cause was missionary, nationalist, or both—is unclear nevertheless. Still, Japanese repression of opposition was brutal, resulting in the arrest and detention of more than 52,000 Korean citizens in 1912 alone. This repression forced many Korean families to flee Korea and settle in Manchuria. In October 1926 Kim founded the Down-with-Imperialism Union. Kim attended Whasung Military Academy in 1926, but finding the academy’s training methods outdated, he quit in 1927.
In 1931 Kim joined the Communist Party of China—the Communist Party of Korea had been founded in 1925, but had been thrown out of the Comintern in the early 1930s for being too nationalist. Four months later, on 18 September 1931, the “Mukden Incident” occurred, in which a relatively weak dynamite explosive charge went off near a Japanese railroad in the town of Mukden in Manchuria. Here Kim met the man who would become his mentor as a Communist, Wei Zhengmin, Kim’s immediate superior officer, who served at the time as chairman of the Political Committee of the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army. Wei reported directly to Kang Sheng, a high-ranking party member close to Mao Zedong in Yan’an, until Wei’s death on 8 March 1941.
In 1935 Kim took the name Kim Il-sung, meaning “Kim become the sun”. Kim was appointed commander of the 6th division in 1937, at the age of 24, controlling a few hundred men in a group that came to be known as “Kim Il-sung’s division”. While commanding this division he executed a raid on Poch’onbo, on 4 June 1937. He appeared on Japanese wanted lists as the “Tiger”. The Japanese “Maeda Unit” was sent to hunt him in February 1940. Kim was sent to a camp at Vyatskoye near Khabarovsk, where the Soviets retrained the Korean Communist guerrillas. Kim became a Major in the Soviet Red Army and served in it until the end of World War II in 1945.